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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps14212

Combining telemetry and fisheries data to quantify species overlap and evaluate bycatch mitigation strategies in an emergent Canadian Arctic fishery

Daniel J. Madigan*, Brynn M. Devine, Sam B. Weber, Angela L. Young, Nigel E. Hussey

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) are bottom-dwelling flatfish that support commercial and community fisheries in Baffin Bay, Canada. Recently, exploratory inshore summer fisheries have raised concerns surrounding bycatch of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) and Arctic skate (Amblyraja hyperborea) which are susceptible to overfishing due to conservative life history traits. To explore fisheries selectivity and opportunities for bycatch mitigation, we combined pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) and fisheries data to assess habitat overlap and catch trends across these three species. PSAT data showed variable inter-specific overlap, with Greenland sharks primarily inhabiting depths <1000 m (725 ± 193 m), Greenland halibut a narrower depth range (1030 ± 113 m), and Arctic skates overlapping depths (950 ± 225 m) of both species. However, fisheries data suggested high inter-specific overlap at deepest depths, with peak catch per unit effort (CPUE) of all species at depths >1000 m. A marked decline in Greenland shark CPUE was observed throughout the fishing season which was best explained by cumulative fishing pressure. Combined tagging and fisheries data suggest that targeting specific seasonal habitat will not decrease bycatch, and inshore summer longline fisheries should be evaluated in the context of potentially high elasmobranch mortality, with enforced bycatch handling practices and alternative mitigation measures (e.g., gear modification or reduced soak times) required.